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Tools of the Trade

  I watched the sun rise, the guest of the good Doctor. What followed was a simple yet satisfying breakfast, after which the Doctor toured me through his collection.
  At one point, he called to me, "Look here! This is a favourite of mine, an exquisite reproduction of the brass leviathan gun from the time period we had been discussing earlier. They used to use these to make a quick kill of the beasts they were seeking. The officers would never use them, of course - much too dangerous. Sailors instead. Expendable. The bloody things were prone to blowing up in one's face.
  They essentially fire something like a grenade, a brass shell complete with its own fuse. Such ammunition used to be referred to as a round, but it was in fact more like a small bomb. Very often, crewmen were maimed by the premature detonation of the things. They were used to taking risks, those men. It was accepted that everything you did carried risk, and there was rarely an elder sailor among the old port taverns that did not bear some prosthetic of one kind or another. And speaking of prosthetics, there are one or two of those lurking around here somewhere...
  Hmm... your silence is telling. I take it you do not approve of the weapon and its usage? Or perhaps I am being presumptuous. Even rude. Well, rudeness is the hallmark of the antiquarian, for it is his business to - like an unruly canine - inspect and gather the scent of every nook and cranny of the collective body of society. Therefore, I make no apologies for my nature. Yes, some of these technologies are disturbing, but that is sometimes as they were meant to be. Technology always reflects a culture, even reflects the character of its users. In this respect, the antiquarian also plays the roles of anthropologist and archaeologist (some would even say garbologist, but not I, oh no). One can see, even upon a cursory glimpse of the contents of this room, that...
  Ah! I'd forgotten that I'd placed it there! These interlocking wheel-like bits here are used in some form of divination, although I haven't the faintest idea how it all works - oh, except that it has to do with stars. Yes, something to do with astral bodies and the like.    I had placed the thing right here because it had reminded me of something quite similar that I had been trying to reproduce in my workshop. The result, I'm afraid, would do little other than belch flame. I believe I've created a weapon. Isn't that funny? It had occurred to me that perhaps that was the very point of the device, but I don't think so. I've aquired quite a feel for the spirit of different technologies, and I don't sense an aggressive purpose behind this one.
  Ahem. Well, I suppose that's what I was getting at to begin with. There's the 'spirit' I'm talking about. Every technology of course has a purpose, but purpose is a matter of what the thing's creators intend in their time and place.
  You see that? There's another weapon, true? Well, no. It might, lying alongside these savage things here, seem to be a tool for sticking one's enemy nicely, but that isn't so. In fact, it's a hairpin (from a place you'd be fascinated in; I'll tell you all about it over lunch), a ladies' artifact, with no relation to martiality whatsoever. Do you know how you can tell? Here. See? The end of the pin is slightly rounded, so that it penetrates hair only. Also note the length. Do you see how you cannot grip it in a fist without touching the enamel portion, thereby risking damage to the intricate patterning therein?
  Now compare the thing with this other pin (from another period that I, again, have not as yet discussed with you), truly a weapon of defense. This end, you will note, is smooth and streamlined for penetration of both hair and flesh, very different from the first pin. As well, you can see that it is much longer, much easier to grip in one or even two hands without disturbing the enarted portion. It is from a society and time when courtesans traditionally wore such implements, and yet still found it necessary to periodically defend themselves from attackers. And there is my point (no pun intended, heh, heh).
  The flavour of the very time and place, the specific culture itself, has been indelibly recorded on the timeline through crafting of this implement. By studying the technology, we understand the needs and wants, the feelings and thoughts, of the living people. So you do well to frown at some of the pieces in my collection, just as any sane man would frown at some of the peoples that the universe has birthed. Their plumages are traceable in their leavings, as are their blemishes.
  When you return to your room, sort through your belongings. When you walk away from this place, look yourself over. What technologies do you bear? What does your equipment say about your character, the creature that is your self, that creature's plumage, or its stains?
  Unnh, there I am with my rudeness again. I am a guilty man, for an antiquarian...
  Ah, I know that sound! Lunch! Come."
  I left in the evening, for the night was cool and well for travel. I like neither hot nor weighty journeys, bearing as few belongings as possible.

   

Jingler
RPG Columnist